It’s opening day for The Passion of the Christ. Yesterday on the Today show, David Denby, film critic for the New Yorkerwas very critical of the movie, and his argument left me thinking he’d missed the whole point of the film.
He condemned the movie for depicting only the last twelve hours of Christ’s life and for doing so in graphic detail, “blow after blow.” He accuses director Mel Gibson of taking us on a “sickening death trip.” He takes exception to a ten-minute torture scene in which Jesus is scorged, pointing out that in the Gospels, “this is just a single line.”
Well, the purpose of torture is to inflict pain. Whether the Bible devoted one line or twenty to Jesus’s torture, does anyone honestly think he was struck just once with the whips then sent on to pick up his cross?
Did they torture him for two minutes, five, ten, or twenty? We don’t know. But to get wrapped up in the length of a movie scene in comparison to the length of a mention in the bible seems a bit silly to me.
Like some others, Denby calls the film a “hate-filled movie.” The physical dissentigration of Christ that is shown in the film, he says, “alters Jesus’s message of love into one of hate.”
If Christ went through all of this torture and pain in order to save our souls, does that strengthen the message of love? Doesn’t it reinforce the sacrifice that he made for us?
And if we’re responsible for his death (all of us!), then shouldn’t we have some sense of what he went through for us, rather than blindly skimming over the pain he endured?
The images, undoubtedly difficult to watch, show us what one man was willing to do for mankind. If we believe that what is depicted in the film (and/or the Bible) did happen, do we not have a responsibility to realize the scope of Christ’s suffering on our behalf and hold ourselves to be worthy of that unconditional love?